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Thursday, 12 November 1914
Page: 522

Senator SENIOR - Not altogether. Wills' now send regularly.

Senator READY - That is since the Commission took evidence. For services for which the South Australians pay 3d. per case to their Export Department, private firms charge 7d. or 8d. per case. Further, the State Export Department of South Australia refuses to accept any retaining fee, with the result that the trade is cleaner and more honorable than it would otherwise be.

Senator Russell - And more profitable.

Senator Bakhap - And the taxpayers have to make up the losses.

Senator READY - There are no losses. That fact is clear, and there was not an unbiased witness of notewho gave evidence before the Commission who did not affirm that the conditions at the other end of the world are very unsatisfactory and will continue to- be unsatisfactory until we secure a radical alteration of the present system, commencing with the appointment of a. Commonwealth Trade Commissioner in London, whose duty it will be to control ' not merely fruit, but every commodity that we export overseas. Even the gentlemen opposed to us politically,, who were members of the Commission, recognised that.

Senator Bakhap - I recognise it myself. I have heard it stated that it is. at the other end of the world that investigation may produce good results.

Senator READY - The only differencebetween my own party and that with which the honorable senator is associated is, that while we are prepared to move and to alter existing conditions, the honorable senator's party is steadily barracking for the institutions which control the trade in Australia and Tasmania.

Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator condemns existing methods, but admits that the growers still utilize them.

Senator READY - The export of apples from South Australia is small ascompared with the export of apples from Tasmania. Surely my honorable frienddoes not expect the South Australians to get control of a market which handlestwenty or thirty times the quantity of fruit which they forward to it.

Senator Bakhap - The whole of the Australian export of fruit represents only a small proportion of what is sold at Covent Garden market.

Senator READY - That is the reason why the whole of that fruit should be placed under one control.

Senator SENIOR - The South Australian Trade Commissioner has the power to withdraw fruit from sale at Covent Garden, and to sell it at Edinburgh, Manchester, or on the Continent, thus making the sales at Covent Garden less.

Senator READY - That is so. The South Australian Trade Commissioner refuses to utilize many of these channels^

Senator Bakhap - Do the Americans and Canadians utilize them ?

Senator READY - The Trade Commissioner has picked out one of the oldest private treaty firms that refused to send South Australian fruit into Covent Garden to be sold by auction. I think I have shown that the condition of the fruit industry at the present time is a very unsatisfactory one, and that need exists for reform. We approached th© late Government upon the matter, but we did not find them sympathetic. Personally, I received very unsympathetic treatment from them. They were dominated by the firms in Tasmania which at present control the position. When the State Fusion party of Tasmania was split in twain, Mr. Henry Jones was the only gentleman who had sufficient influence to get the party into his office in Tasmania, and to fuse its members so that they could present a united front.

Senator Bakhap - I tell the honorable senator that that is a myth.

Senator READY - It is common knowledge that Mr. Henry Jones was the only gentleman who was powerful enough to fuse the Liberal party and to induce them to pre-ent a united front to the enemy.

Senator Bakhap - It is Mr. Henry Jones now, but a few years ago it was Mr. Barclay.

Senator READY - I have received reports from very reliable sources in Tasmania that, during the last elections Mr. Ashbolt, of Messrs. Henry Jones and Company, called his men together, and told them that if they *wanted to vote Labour he had no objection to them doing so, but if Senator Ready was returned to this Parliament the company would transfer their business to America.

Senator Bakhap - Have they transferred it?

Senator READY - No; it was only bluff, but typical of that firm's methods.

Senator Bakhap - Does the honorable senator know that Mr. Jones went to America some months ago in order to extend the Tasmanian- fruit trade there, irrespective of any political situation ?

Senator READY - He went there also to extend his own interests, and small blame to him for doing so. My complaint is that the party with which my honorable friend is associated puts Mr. Henry Jones' interests before the interests of the primary producer.

Senator Bakhap - Are not the majority of the fruit-growers of Tasmania, who do business with Messrs. Jones and Company, satisfied that it is a firm of great integrity, arid do not they wish .to continue their relations with it?

Senator READY - The majority are not satisfied, and this would speedily be rendered plain were it mot for the financial influence which Mr. Jones wields over them. His interests are wide, and his methods are sometimes devious. His financial wing is a .capacious one-

Senator Bakhap - It is a pity we have not a dozen men like him in Tasmania.

Senator READY - I quite expected that, and, having shown exactly how my honorable friend stands, I am content. In taking evidence, the Commission found that the fruit-growers who possess influence and large acreages in Tasmania - the men -who take a leading part in the deliberations of the Fruit-growers -Union there - are big shareholders in the firm of Henry Jones and Company.

Senator Bakhap - An instance of the advantage of co-operation which the honorable senator is always lauding at Sunday afternoon meetings.

Senator READY - It is the wrong sort of co-operation. Ours is the co-operation of all the growers. If the honorable senator chooses to use his eyes and ears he will find that there are a great many discontented fruit-growers in Tasmania. Having shown where my honorable friend stands, I wish to tell the Senate the matters into which the Commission recommended that specific inquiry should be made in London. Every member of the Commission, both Liberal and Labour, signed a memorandum to the Prime Minister. We asked that a member of the Commission should be despatched to London to conduct the inquiry into these matters. An unsympathetic Government ref used our request. Accordingly we determined to send Home through the Prime Minister a memorandum setting out the matters which, in our opinion, needed investigating. Both sides of the Commission signed that memorandum. I ask honorable senators to note the four or five subjects into which we desired an (investigation to be made. The Prime Minister of the day assured us that he would have an inquiry made through the Department 'of the High Commissioner. We had not much faith in the High Commissioner's Department, and our lack of faith proved to be well founded. In paragraph 7 of our memorandum we said -

Evidence was tendered by many witnesses which showed that growers were charged from 7d. to 8d. per case to cover the cost of outofpocket expenses in London, exclusive of selling commission, but embracing dock charges, collection, lighterage, landing, sorting, stor age, delivery, &c. The charge was declared to be excessive. The details of actual cost of the services mentioned should be ascertained.

We also inserted a paragraph relating to rebates. Paragraph 9 reads -

Evidence was submitted that some of the fruit agents, both shipping and selling, receive secret rebates from their principals. Inquiry is suggested to ascertain if such practice exists, and the amount paid by such principals.

Then paragraph 11 says -

Investigation should be made to determine whether sales might be effected, under proper supervision, by reliable agents at the lowest reasonable rate, and the services of any unnecessary middlemen eliminated.

We also asked for an inquiry into the need which exists for cool storage in London, and in paragraph 20 we specifically referred to questionable practices. We said -

Sworn evidence was tendered to the effect that certain London sellers (who represent the Australian agents for the growers) are also buyers, and that they control wholesale and retail Belling houses.

Paragraph 21 reads -

It was pointed out by a witness before the Commission, who had made inquiries in London, that the result was that the wholesale merchants, whose principals were sellers in the market, effected the work of distribution, and secured the profits which should legitimately have belonged to the growers.

Then in paragraph 22 we said-

Investigation of these matters should elicit some idea of the value of supervision by commercial agents or otherwise over the sale of Australian products.

There were other matters dealt with in our memorandum, but those I have enumerated were the most important. That memorandum should have carried some weight, inasmuch as it was signed by the whole of the members of the Commission, and was accompanied by a memorandum of the Cook Government. I may also mention that when the High Commissioner was in Melbourne, the members of the Commission made it their duty to wait upon him, and to chat over matters in detail. Upon that occasion I urged upon Sir George Reid's attention the necessity of inquiring particularly into these questionable practices, these dishonest tactics and the way the fruit-grower was being fleeced. Sir George Reid admitted that that was a feature in regard to other kinds of produce, that it did not pertain to fruit alone, and he instanced what occurred when he instituted a very close inquiry into the butter industry. When he came to Tasmania I took the trouble to wait upon him at Launceston, and to urge very strongly the necessity of clearing up these points. He thought he would probably do better if he called the brokers together and had a little hearttoheart talk with them, in order to ascertain their views on the statements made before the Fruit Commission. I objected to that suggestion. I said, " Naturally these gentlemen are concerned; their interests are not our interests, they will make statements and the position in the end will be' as you were.' I think it would be far better if you were to send from your office a competent official who had made a study of our reports and the question generally to inquire and see if he could not get at the truth of these matters." Let me now tell the Senate what the High Commissioner and his office did.

Senator Bakhap - Is he corrupt, too; is he guilty of questionable practices, also?

Senator READY - My honorable friend should hold his tongue.

Senator Bakhap - No, this is the place where I ought to speak.

Senator READY - I object to having attributed to me any remark which I did not make or intend to make.

Senator Bakhap - At the beginning of your speech you expressed dissatisfaction with the High Commissioner.

Senator READY - I did, and I am giving the Senate the reasons for my dissatisfaction, and probably that is what is unpalatable to my honorable friend. Here is the reply from the High Commissioner's office in connexion with the important points which we asked to be cleared up in the interests of the producers -

Commonwealth Offices, 72 Victoria-street, Westminster,

London S.W., 4th August, 1914.

Memorandum to

The Secretary,

Department of External Affairs.

I am directed by the High Commissioner to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 25th June, No. 2696, with which were forwarded : -

(a)   the Minutes of Evidence of the' Commission ;

(b)   the Progress and Minority Reports of the Commission ; and

(c)   Schedule of Fruit Charges, South Australian Government Produce Department, 1914, and in reply to state, for the information of the Minister, that Mr. Tully, a representative fruit-grower of Victoria, has been in England and Germany especially to make inquiries, on behalf of the Victorian fruit-growers, into the matters referred to in the reports of the Commission.

2.   The High Commissioner saw Mr. Tully more than once, and is of opinion that he was admirably qualified to investigate the fruit trade here, and that he had made a thorough inquiry.

3.   Sir GeorgeReidsuggests that as Mr. Tully has left for Australia he be applied to for a copy of his report and other information.

He desires me to add that, in his opinion, only an expert such as Mr. Tully could make a searching inquiry, but if, after referring to him, further information is needed, the High Commissioner will at once proceed to get it.

B.   Muirhead Collins.

First, let me take Mr. Tully's report, which is attached, and which I am prepared to allow any honorable senator to look at. It contains absolutely not one word of information on the matters into which we asked that a thorough inquiry should be made.

Senator Bakhap - On what is he reporting ?

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